Marine Reservists Bring Firepower to the Skies

By U.S. Army Sgt. Greg Heath / 4th Public Affairs Detachment
BAGRAM, Afghanistan, Dec. 17, 2003 — “Don’t shoot at the gray ones,” was the simple, no-nonsense warning stated by Marine Sgt. Clay Farlow, UH-1N Huey Gunship crew chief, and aimed at anti-coalition militants operating throughout Afghanistan.

The “gray ones” Farlow was referring to are Bagram Air Base’s newest Marine attack aviation assets, the conspicuous, gray painted AH-1W Super Cobra and UH-1N Huey Gunship helicopters of the Marine Light Attack Helicopter “Red Dog” Squadron 773.

"Red Dog" Squadron 773 is a Marine Reserve squadron based in Atlanta, which also draws Marine assets from New Orleans and Pennsylvania.

Now called to action in Afghanistan, it’s the main job of the Cobra and Huey combination to provide close air support and convoy security for coalition service members conducting operations throughout Afghanistan.

Since arriving in late October, the "Red Dogs" have found themselves working closely with infantry soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division, most recently during Operation Mountain Resolve and currently on Operation Mountain Avalanche.

“What we do best is work closely with the man on the ground,” said Maj. Steve Peters, Marine Cobra pilot, "Red Dog" Squadron 773. “We bring an appropriate level of punch to what the ground troops want to accomplish.”

Although the Cobra and Huey helicopters may be identified with past military generations, these aircraft are far from obsolete, according to Peters.

“While the name Cobra has been around forever, these airframes share no parts commonalities with the older models,” Peters said, adding that most of the Super Cobras have less than 2000 hours flown on them.

Armed with a 20mm gattling gun, 2.75-inch rockets, Hellfire and TOW missiles, the Cobra attack helicopter is extremely capable aircraft for fighting in Afghanistan, according to Peters.

The Huey gunship bears more airframe similarities with the older models than the Cobra, but, like the Cobra, it also brings a lot more to the table than its predecessors.

The Huey can be used to for troop insert and extract, but the Marines of "Red Dog" Squadron 773 prefer to load them up massive amounts of firepower.

“Every little bit of weight you add to the Huey detracts from the amount of ordinance that we can carry,” said Peters. “We don’t like to go light on ordnance, ever.”

The Marine Corps’ Huey gunship can be armed with 2.75-inch rockets, the GAU-2B 6-barreled mini-gun, a .50-caliber machine gun, and thousands of rounds.

Along with providing close air support during combat missions, Cobras and Hueys can also be used in an attack role against anti-coalition militant ground troops.

And one of the things they’re most proud of is their night fighting capability.

“We have around the clock capability,” said Peters, who added that he experienced the longest mission of his career during this deployment, when he flew a 10-hour mission one night.

To date, the enemy hasn’t put up much resistance as of yet. For Maj. Dave Deep, Cobra pilot, "Red Dog" Squadron 773, it’s not a big mystery why, he said, “When we come during a mission, it’s an intimidation factor to whoever’s down there to see and hear our Cobras and Hueys flying overhead,” Deep said. “So they don’t have much of a tendency to shoot at us.”